Review: The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind by Meg Medina

Publication Date: March 13th, 2012
Candlewick Press
Format: ARC, 244 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Sonia’s entire village believes she has a gift, but it’s only in leaving home that she finds out who she truly is. A compelling tale from a rich new voice in young adult fiction.
Sixteen-year-old Sonia Ocampo was born on the night of the worst storm Tres Montes had ever seen. And when the winds mercifully stopped, an unshakable belief in the girl’s protective powers began. All her life, Sonia has been asked to pray for sick mothers or missing sons, as worried parents and friends press silver milagros in her hands. Sonia knows she has no special powers, but how can she disappoint those who look to her for solace? Still, her conscience is heavy, so when she gets a chance to travel to the city and work in the home of a wealthy woman, she seizes it. At first, Sonia feels freedom in being treated like all the other girls. But when news arrives that her beloved brother has disappeared while looking for work, she learns to her sorrow that she can never truly leave the past or her family behind. With deeply realized characters, a keen sense of place, a hint of magical realism, and a flush of young romance, Meg Medina tells the tale of a strongwilled, warmhearted girl who dares to face life’s harsh truths as she finds her real power.

With beautiful writing and a storyline rich in culture and folklore, The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind defined the line between realism over mysticism. Told through a girl believed to be both God’s messenger and mediator, Sonia was born on a night when a raging storm should’ve decimated her entire village. Her people believed that it was because of her that they were spared. Ever since then, they flock to her in their time of desperate need. But Sonia doesn’t believe she has the miraculous powers they imagined her to have. In fact, she knows in her heart that she is a fraud. She wishes she could tell them the truth; that she’s just a girl and what she wanted the most was to live like a normal teenager and not some sort of an iconic figure that everyone holds in reverence. But how could she break the hearts of her people when they already have so little hope in their impoverish lives to begin with? It would take a beloved orphan, a missing brother and the ghost of her abuela for Sonia to come to terms with her role in the lives of her family and her people. But it would be a journey wrought with heartbreak and loss.

I can’t put into words how much this book impacted me. The hopelessness – the people’s need for a better life that they’d risk certain deaths to leave the village they live in. Nowadays, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important. And the people in this book just made me think of how incredibly lucky I am. This book made me realize how much of my native country I have missed. I’ve lived several years in a place where corruption and crime go hand and hand with poverty. I’ve seen that spark of hope that people desperately cling to in their time of need; Religion,  belief of the divine miracles…when it feels that they’re at the end of their ropes, they’d hold on to these vestiges of hope no matter how futile it may be. My point is, I was able to appreciate why the people of Tres Montes put so much stock into Sonia’s “divine” ability.

Meg Medina’s book was incredibly real and to some extent, unapologetic. There were some hard-hitting facts about the fate of those people who tries to illegally cross some sort of border just to find a better life. Heartbreaking stories of those who trusted their own only to find out that a quick death would be gladly accepted rather than what they’ve gotten in the end. Some parts of this was hard to read but for the most part it was beautiful. The culture, the superstitions, the mystical elements were startlingly enlightening. There’s an initial sense of familial love within the community that I found touching. That is, until it became a little muddled toward the end as their belief toward the miraculous girl came into question.

I must admit that Sonia and Pancho’s sweet friendship was what propelled me to read this book in one fell swoop. Theirs was the kind that didn’t seem like it was going to have a promising end. I’d hoped it would be. Actually, it was pretty much the emotional theme whilst reading this novel. I was hopeful. I wanted good things to happen everyone. And to some it did…but to others…not so.

The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind is a moving story about keeping that flicker of hope alive in a world where it’s virtually impossible. It’s about believing in something – may it be miracles or that apparition of a dead loved one. It’s about a girl’s eventual and total acceptance of who she is and her influence to the people around her. Sometimes, you don’t need divine blessings to affect the lives of those around you. You just have to offer them  hope that things will turn out for the better.